A Curry for Cancer
By Laurel Kallenbach and Sarah Keough
Turmeric (Curcuma longa), the spice that gives our curries and mustards that familiar blast of vibrant yellow color, has long been known to have healing properties. A member of the ginger family, turmeric has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries as a way to treat a host of complaints such as indigestion, inflammation and arthritic pain. More recently, scientists are looking to turmeric's powerful anti-inflammatory compound, known as curcumin, as a way to fight cancer. According to a University of Chicago study conducted in 2002, curcumin inhibits a cancer-provoking bacteria (H. pylori) associated with gastric and colon cancer. In addition, a 1999 University of Leicester study demonstrated curcumin's ability to slow the rate at which prostate cancer cells become resistant to hormonal therapy.
The latest study brings turmeric to bear on melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. This study, published in the August 15 issue of the journal Cancer, shows that curcumin kills and stops the growth of melanoma cells in laboratory tests. Although the higher the dose, the more effectively curcumin kills the cancer cells, researchers did note that low concentrations over long periods can also be effective.
Ayurvedic herb can halt leukemia spreadWashington : An extract from the root of an ornamental plant found in India can suppress the progression of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), a new study by researchers at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center has found.
The ayurvedic herb, called forskolin, which comes from the root of the plant Coleus Forskohlii (Makandi), is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family, and has been a part of Indian medicine for centuries.
The study, published in the recent issue of Cancer Cell, may yield new treatment options for people who are expected to develop CML, especially those with advanced disease, or those who become resistant to the drug Gleevec.
Early results on CML patient cells both in culture and in mice showed that forskolin reduced the cancer cells' ability to grow by up to 90 percent.
“We believe these are significant findings. We have uncovered a key process that underlies progression in CML and identified an agent that can block it. We also have shown that forskolin can reinstate normal cell functioning, even in Gleevec-resistant cells that do not respond to any treatment currently available,” said Dr. Danilo Perrotti, a member of the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center's Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program.
Patients with the earliest form of the disease, called the chronic phase, may not even be aware they are sick. If the disease is discovered early, it almost always responds to the drug Gleevec. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gleevec as a treatment for CML about five years ago and it was initially hailed as the first ‘wonder drug' for cancer.
But since then, a significant minority of patients who initially responded well to Gleevec have acquired additional mutations and developed resistance to the drug. In these patients, white blood cells continue to proliferate. If left unchecked, it leads to the final, acute stage, called the blast crisis, where immature white blood cells infiltrate the blood and the bone marrow.
Clinicians are well-versed in the signs and symptoms of the different stages of CML, but until now, they have had few clues about what actually causes the disease to progress. Perrotti said his studies show that it may be due to the increased activity of Bcr-Abl itself.
The researchers tested the effects of forskolin on normal, Gleevec-sensitive and Gleevec-resistant CML cells, and discovered that the extract reduced the cancer cells' ability to grow by up to 90 percent and induced leukemic cell death and differentiation. It had no adverse effects upon normal cells.
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